Bend it like Beckham

By on February 1, 2009

David Beckham’s father famously took his son to their local park in London every evening when he was a boy, encouraging him to practice striking a dead ball, controlling a pass and thumping half-volleys into a goal. That regular practicing made Beckham an idol for a generation of young soccer players around the world and, incidentally, a very wealthy man. 

Practice makes permanent, emphasizes Mike Yeomans, who has spotted some young lads training with the Total Football Academy who similarly have the potential to go all the way in the game.

“We run weekly academy sessions and there are a couple who are very good indeed,” said Yeomans, TFA’s head coach and a semi-professional player with Basildon United & Aveley in Britain. “They could have what it takes and skills like that are very definitely worth nurturing over the next few years.”

At present, TFA runs three academies, in Tokyo’s Minami Asagaya, Yukarigaoka in Chiba and, most recently, in Yokohama, and, it’s planning to open new sites in the near future.

With sponsorship from Nike, Total Football has close links with many of the biggest clubs in world soccer. Last summer, trainers from Celtic FC ran a clinic for youngsters, while similar events are being planned for next summer. Nike provides equipment for Arsenal, Juventus and Manchester United. 

On a typical Saturday morning in Yokohama, a dozen or so boys – smartly turned out in their dark blue shirts and white shorts – are going through a series of drills designed to improve their ball control, coordination and ability to “read” the game. 

“Each week we have a theme – it can be passing the ball, goalkeeping skills or movement off the ball – but we try to make each session as real as possible,” says Yeomans. Divided into age groups, the Under-6 players are having fun peppering the goal with short-range shots and games designed to stimulate their love of the sport, but training becomes more technical and focused for the older age groups. 

In the same way as teams drill in England’s Premiership or La Liga in Spain, coloured cones are laid out on the artificial surface of the Saint Maur International School pitch. The players take it in turns to firstly pass to a team-mate then receive a ball that they run on to and strike first time at a goal defended by Jorge Kuriyama, TFA’s goalkeeping specialist. 

Some fly high and wide, other shots do not have sufficient velocity to get past Jorge’s big hands, but just as often a ball is struck so sweetly and with the required accuracy that even a former Mexico Under-18 international goalkeeper has no chance of stopping it.

When that happens, Yeomans insists that the youngsters celebrate as if they had scored a goal in front of the home fans at Anfield or the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium.

“As well as the skills we are teaching them, we really want to pass on the love of the game, the passion for football, its traditions,” said Yeomans. “But it’s a lot more than that as well; I think we’re helping them develop as people as well as players. They are learning how to interact in groups and honing their social skills. It’s teamwork – in every sense of the ward Yeomans, who has been in Japan since 2001 says coaching children is more rewarding than working with established players because “they have no egos and they are really keen to learn and improve their skills,” he said.

And once that love of the game has been instilled, then they are likely to have it for life, admitting that “I’m 44 and I’ve got to the age where I can’t play like I used to, but I really need a connection to the game and I hope that I’m giving something back to this new generation of players.”

The Total Football Academy operates hour-long training sessions for children in Under-6, Under-8, Under-10 and Under-12 age groups at three venues around the Kanagawa region.

Contact Total Football Inc. at (03) 6440 0533 or via 


Soccer teams will be gathering at the Disney Wide World of Sports complex in Florida in mid-July for the 12th Disney Cup International Youth Soccer Tournament – and the organizers are hoping that one or more teams based in Japan will be competing.

Squads from more than 20 countries have taken part in the past, with teams of both boys and girls competing in three age groups, according to Disney Sports Soccer Sales Manager Leo Leite.

The tournament offers youth soccer teams the opportunity to compete at world-class facilities while at the same time providing athletes and their families with a chance to enjoy everything the Walt Disney World Resort has to offer, he said. 

Teams will play a minimum of four matches, while the entire package provides for specially priced accommodation at selected Disney resorts and reduced price tickets for Walt Disney World.

For full details of the tournament, as well as application requirements and deadlines and prices, visit the tournament web site at 

About Julian Ryall